Concerts in Chicago in March
Guitarist Yonatan Gat is one of the most visceral performers out there, and it's not just because of his versatile six-string chops—which lend themselves to everything from psychedelic rock to avant-garde jazz. At the head of his three-piece band, Gat typically eschews the stage in favor of playing in the middle of the audience, allowing his winding compositions to feed off the energy of tightly-packed bodies.
Tyler, the Creator owes much of his current success to the controversy that he generated as the sophomoric figurehead of Odd Future, the California hip-hop collective that includes Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean. On Flower Boy, Tyler moves beyond the shocking (and often problematic) rhymes that populated his early records, taking a more confessional tone about the nature of race and sexuality. But no matter how insightful Tyler gets, his live shows probably aren't going to be any less anarchic.
Merrill Garbus once again embraces funky Afrobeat rhythms and hair-raising vocals on her latest album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, but the record itself is wracked with a sense of guilt. Confronting her own white privilege and cultural appropriation, the latest iteration of Tune-Yards seems at odds with its past, stripping away the neon face paint and carefree word-association in favor of music that makes a calculated attempt to empathize.
While songs like "Kids" and "Time to Pretend" have become cultural touchstones for millennials, MGMT has always seemed insistent on defying expectations on its ensuing albums. After writing much of their debut while they were college students, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser opted to explore psych-rock and trippy studio trickery. A five-year hiatus hasn't softened MGMT's stubborn tendencies—Little Dark Age is another psychedelic opus with a few nods to the group's synth-pop prowess.
Following in the footsteps of Prince, R&B crooner Miguel makes smooth, sexy music that doesn't shy away from allusions to the current political climate (not to mention the heat he's packing beneath those tight leather trousers). On War & Leisure, he juxtaposes carnal pleasures with global unrest—his sultry anthems invite listeners to unwind and enjoy themselves, but the specter of conflict and unease is always present. He may not be topping the charts, but Miguel's music stays unflinchingly true to his seductive vision.
Balaclava-clad Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot made headlines in 2012, when the group staged a guerrilla performance in a Moscow church that resulted in the arrest of several members. Now the feminist art collective is hitting the road for its first U.S. tour, bringing its “live music performance art” to Subterranean and Beat Kitchen. The band's current lineup includes Nadya Tolokonnikova, who previously appeared on a panel discussion of the group's legacy at Riot Fest in 2014.
The music industry is a sleazy business filled with shady characters, but nobody embraces its seediness quite like Alex Cameron. The Australian singer-songwriter (who formerly played with Sydney electronic act Seekae) performs in character, writing self-aware songs from the perspective of internet porn addicts and wanna-be alpha males. Accompanied by saxophonist and business partner Roy Malloy, Cameron takes his musical satire seriously, building ‘80-inflected synth-pop arrangements that are as compelling as the narratives he weaves.
Even if you’ve never actually listened to one of his records, you’ve heard Ty Dolla $ign’s silky R&B vocals on tracks by the likes of Kanye West, Vince Staples and Lupe Fiasco. In the increasingly competitive world of computer-pitched hook singers for hire, he's one of the most prolific. The L.A. crooner shows off his versatility on his latest album, Beach House 3, which includes sultry takes on reggae and trap music.
What do you get when you pair one of the most reliable modern pop divas with a ridiculously-connected music mogul who loves shouting his own name? You might think the answer is “a hit single,” but it's actually a co-headlining arena tour that finds Demi Lovato and DJ Khaled sharing the stage. To be honest, we're looking forward to earworm anthem “Sorry Not Sorry” far more than any song that features Khaled shouting “We the best music!”
Pink (or P!nk) has long been a pop-star in consciously-edgy clothes, armed with up-tempo tracks and heartwrenching ballads that show off her formidable vocal range. Touring behind her latest LP, Beautiful Trauma, Pink is cooking up another thrilling arena show that—if her building-scaling AMA stunt is any indication—will be filled with propulsive beats and hunky acrobats stunt-dancing from bungee cords.
Though they once recorded a live album at the Hideout, New Jersey punks Screaming Females headline a much larger venue in support of the band's new record, All At Once—an energetic collection of songs that examine life in the age of endless information. In concert, frontwoman Marissa Paternoster pulls double-duty as guitar hero and vocal firecracker, summon a barrage of energetic riffs and shrieks. Philly DIY power pop act Radiator Hospital and local punks Espejos open the show.
Danny Brown may have shaved off his shaggy locks and fixed his trademark gap-toothed grin, but the Detroit rapper's rapid-fire wordplay and adaptable flow are still intact. His recent Warp Records release, Atrocity Exhibition, pairs sparse, foreboding trap beats and Brown's usual array of X-rated musings. Brown marks the arrival of Goose Island's made-up holiday 312 Day with a free (with RSVP) show at House of Vans, with support from local hip-hop star Joey Purp.
Nearly four decades after Don Henley stated that the Eagles wouldn't get back together until hell freezes over, the country rockers are still touring in the wake of their 1994 reunion. The group's latest set of dates mark its first shows since the death of founding member Glenn Frey in 2015 (his son Deacon will be filling in). Expect a career-spanning set from Henley and Joe Walsh, punctuated by obligatory renditions of "Hotel California" and "Desperado."
A former street performer who later fronted Irish rock act the Frames and collaborated with pianist Markéta Irglová as part of folk duo the Swell Season, Glen Hansard has the kind of storied career worthy of a consummate troubadour. His latest album, Between Two Shores, revisits a collection of songs he recorded at Wilco's loft studio five years ago, mixing soul-searching ballads with upbeat, brass section-backed tunes.
After more than two decades, Canadian collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor is still exploring the boundaries of instrumental rock. On its latest album, Luciferian Towers, the group channels orchestral cacophony, layering frantic arrangements of violins, horns and drums with towering guitar riffs. The multi-part compositions that fill the record are some of the densest and most cathartic entries in GSYB's catalog, patiently building toward huge musical moments that are frequently emulated, but rarely replicated, by its post-rock peers.
Even when he's rapping over a down-tempo beat, every syllable that Chicago activist-turned-rapper Ric Wilson utters is laced with palpable enthusiasm. His confidence is contagious and effortlessly seeps into the lyrics of his recent EP, Newgrow Disco, on which he intones, "I don't chase the wave, I just make the wave." Here, Wilson headlines the Music Everywhere event, benefitting local non-profit Foundations of Music, which helps provide music education to CPS students. Each ticket includes two drinks and snacks.
Few contemporary bands have nailed the classic indie-pop sound with as much effortless charm as Alvvays, as Canadian quintet whose members clearly spent their formative years absorbing records from the likes of Pastels, Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian. The band's most recent release, Antisocialites, is packed with infectious melodies and hopelessly twee lyricism that's sure to be scrawled in the margins of high school textbooks around the world.
German composer and pianist Nils Frahm spent the past two years building a studio in a historic Berlin building to capture the intricate instrumental arrangements that populate his new album, All Melody. Straddling the line between contemporary classical and the avant-garde, Frahm uses a pipe organ, a piano and racks of vintage synthesizers to build layered, hypnotizing compositions. His concerts feature plenty of on-stage multi-tasking, as Frahm flits between instruments, rapidly improvising variations on his cinematic melodies.
After having her Lollapalooza 2017 set cut short after just three songs by a torrential downpour, New Zealand pop star Lorde finally makes her triumphant return to Chicago behind the meticulously produced melodies of her recent album, Melodrama. The opening acts are just as exciting, featuring high-energy hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and confessional indie rock singer-songwriter Mitski—it's the kind of once-in-a-lifetime bill that you'll kick yourself for missing out on.
While a rough Super Bowl appearance and the questionable roll-out of his latest album weren't great looks for J.T., the pop superstar's swagger and charisma have gotten him through worse scrapes. For better or for worse, Man of the Woods is more of what Timberlake does best, combining taut pop production with nods to funk, electronica and country. The merch stands will probably look like a Pendleton catalog, but stick it out to hear a live rendition of "SexyBack."
The primal ferocity and pure volume of a typical Lightning Bolt show cement it as the type of experience that's likely to put you one step closer to permanent hearing damage. Brian Chippendale drums and sings (by way of a mask outfitted with a microphone) while Brian Gibson lays down waves of distortion that seem apt to burst through anything but the strongest earplugs. You'll be able to feel the floor (and your ribcage) rumbling at this special "in-the-round" show.
The Stranger Things craze shows no signs of slowing down, so the duo of musicians behind the Netflix show's soundtrack are hitting the road and giving the ‘80s synth-loving masses what they want. As part of Texas electronic act SURVIVE, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have been coaxing nostalgic sounds from analog circuitry for years, wringing eerie atmosphere from the same types of keyboards used by bands like the Police and Devo
After more than three decades together, indie-rock elder statesmen (and woman) Yo La Tengo is still a band that is full of surprises. The group's latest album, There's a Riot Going On, features songs stitched together from old demos, rejected films scores and stream-of-conscious jams, resulting in one of the trio's most varied collection of songs to date, ranging from subdued folks songs to droning instrumentals. Expect a visceral live set packed with unexpected reinterpretations of the band's vast catalog.
EDM producer and DJ Bassnectar has mostly stopped touring (aside from the occasional festival date) in favor of producing his own miniature festival experiences, called Gatherings. The first of 2018 comes to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont for two days of music, bass drops and strobe lights, featuring headlining sets from Bassnectar and support from the likes of Rezz, TroyBoi, TOKiMONSTA, Ivy Lab, Danny Corn and Andreilien. Think of it as a warm-up for Spring Awakening.